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  • November 9 Meeting: Collective Impact


Making Large-Scale Change 

The program for our November 9 membership meeting continued the theme of exploring impact—this time Collective Impact.  Lauren Maddox, Due East Partners and AAWGT member, and Alli Holstrom, AACO Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families, presented an engaging and inspiring overview of this approach to making large-scale change.  Lauren explained the key elements of Collective Impact, which include a common agenda, shared measurement systems, backbone support, continuous communications, and mutually reinforcing activities. What makes Collective Impact so different and so powerful is the alignment of multiple change efforts across a variety of sectors seeking impact at the population level. Creative thinking, finding common ground, engaging in reciprocal and collaborative working relationships, and using data to drive the work all contribute to the success of Collective Impact.  Lauren encouraged anyone interested in learning more about collective impact to read a 2011 article in Stanford Social Innovation Review by John Kania and Mark Kramer.   

She then took us through a case study on improving education outcomes to illustrate how Collective Impact works on a national level.  Lauren emphasized the critical importance of a backbone organization that guides vision, strategy, and activities, establishes shared measurement systems, builds public will, advances policies, and mobilizes funding.

Alli then explored the Results Scorecard and Results Based Accountability which are methods of setting goals, and then working backwards to develop data-driven, concrete actions to achieve those goals. She described the difference between population accountability which looks, for example at city, state, national outcomes and performance accountability which examines how a program, agency, or service system is functioning. One thing Alli underscored is that no one program, agency, or initiative can be directly responsible for population level outcomes.  Population level outcomes require Collective Impact.  Alli encouraged those interested in learning more about Results Based Accountability to read Mark Friedman’s Trying Hard is Not Good Enough.

“Turning the Curve” is a term we all learned about during the evening.  It refers to a process of delving deeper to better understand what the data is telling us and working with others to figure out what else might work and how to pursue it.  Alli had us engage in an exercise that focused on the recent increase in the percentage of Anne Arundel County public school students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. We came up with a variety of reasons (the story behind the data) that might have accounted for the increase, brainstormed about a group of partners who could help address the issue, and thought of some new strategies (at least one low or no-cost) that might work to reduce these numbers.

More than fifty-five AAWGT members present at the meeting then got together in groups to discuss several questions about how the ideas shared in the presentation might be useful to AAWGT. The discussion was lively and each group reported back a few highlights to the whole.

What intrigues you about Collective Impact and Results-Based Accountability? 

Members noted the maximization of impact; more effective use of public/private dollars; and increased efficiency/less duplication.

What might this mean for the Giving Circle, if anything?

Ideas ranged from looking at the timing of grant cycles within the county for better coordination; keeping country priorities in mind when funding; supporting a project in a geographical area outside Annapolis; thinking about funding more heavily in specific issue area(s) that would add to county-wide impact; and working to make sure all organizations AAWGT funds know about the other county organizations and agencies  that fund in the same area or do the same things.  Others expressed the opinion that the Community Foundation is better placed to organize collaboration and that AAWGT should steer away from such an intensive effort.

If we were to adopt a Collective Impact approach or try to “turn the curve” on a specific issue, what might AAWGT want to do or do differently?

A number of ideas came up in answer to this question, including focusing AAWGT funding on one problem; collaborating with other funders (e.g. a family fund or Next Gen); allocating more funding to North County; working to “turn the curve” on a specific issue; asking for specific outcomes in grant applications; layering in collaboration when funding larger grants; seeking a grant applicant whose job is to build connective tissue among organizations; and facilitating an approach for our grantees to meet with one another to plan for cooperative strategies.

Much to think about and address as AAWGT goes forward into its next 10 years!

View the Powerpoint presentation from this meeting.

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